Newton & Jasper County Missouri

MADD Chapter

Gary and Wayne Pruden:

Victims of a Gruesome Murder

Charles and Lou Zella Pruden live in a small rural community nestled in the Southwest Missouri. Their house in Newtonia, Missouri is located on a quiet and shady street. The huge walnut and maple trees in their front yard could be symbolic of the deep religious faith and deep family roots of the Pruden family. Upon meeting the Pruden's one is immediately impressed with their quiet and serene spirit, A paradox of how an opposite life style can collide and bring such devastation to the peace and serenity of families such as the Prudens.
Charles and Lou Zella had three children: Two sons, Gary and Wayne: and a daughter Donna. Donna lives only a few miles from her Mom and Dad. Upon graduating from high school in North Kansas City, Gary and Wayne went to York Christian college in YorkNebraska. Gary also attended Harding college on Searcy, Arkansas. Both colleges are operated by Churches of Christ which is Pruden's religious faith.

Gary Pruden:
After attending college Gary moved to Newtonia and lived with his Grandmother. He was active in church activities and would transport elderly members to area church meetings. His mother states”He was very shy and it was hard for him to make friends...They both really loved us and showed it in any way they could."

Wayne Pruden:
Wayne was just as shy as his brother, but in his teenage years he had a great interest in cars and motorcycles. It was family policy for the boys to provide their own car insurance as well as make their own car payments.
Wayne was also active in Church work. He was a song leader in a congregation of almost 300 members. His mother states, " He was admired at Church for his ability to lead singing, and he was sent to a song leading school in Oklahoma City, He was very good"

The Gruesome Story:
The story you are about to read is revealed in the court records, " State of Missouri VS Steve Adams A/K/A/ J.R. Adams" case number CR183-2FX. Out of respect for the Pruden family some of the gruesome facts have been omitted. The gory details at the scene of the collision will only be remembered by the witnesses. However, somehow, society needs to be reminded that DWI has ugly and heinous consequences, within a matter of minutes we tend to tow away the vehicles, and wash away the blood and burnt flesh so that traffic and attitudes can continue as usual.

The Fiery collision:
It was October 30th 1982; the time was approximately 3:30 in the afternoon. The place was the intersection of Highways 60 and 71 on the southern edge of Neosho, Missouri.
A red international pickup which had just pulled from the parking lot of a beer tavern, Rons Rocket Inn was traveling north on HWY 71, The two Pruden brothers were also traveling north in a 1976 Jeep Renegade, and had stopped at the four way stop sign. The red pickup rammed into the back of the jeep which resulted in what witnesses said was a "big Explosion" The pickup stopped 351 feet from the point of impact.
People at the scene attempted to rescue the Pruden brothers, but the jeep became “a ball of fire" and it was burning real hot. Jeff Cope, one of the first at the scene, attempted to extinguish the fire with his fire extinguisher. Wayne, who was driving the jeep was able to pull him self from the flaming vehicle and was then covered with a coat by Dwayne Lassiter, an off duty fireman who happened to be one of the first at the scene. Gary was incinerated inside the jeep and Wayne died the next day around noon at the Tulsa burn center.
Evidence taken from the red pickup included 5 cans of bud and one empty can. the driver's blood alcohol content tested .26%.

The Drunk Driver: No License and never had any
According to a statement taken by Police Officer John A Glore, The defendant, J R Adams lived in apt. #5 of the Flower box Motel. He made 93 dollars a week working as a farmhand on the Don Killebrew farm.
On the morning of the crime, Don picked up J.R. at the Motel and they went to the farm. Later in the day J.R. according to his statement” drank a six pack of bud beer" and" two drinks of whiskey”, Canadian Mist. He then drove the farm pickup to a "beer joint on highway 71, I drank five or six or seven beers there. I didn't see the car I hit because I had been looking down trying to start the pickup. The next thing I remember is a lot of people talking around me....I don’t have any drivers license, and never have. I took driving at Cordell Oklahoma about three years ago, I paid a fine of $250.00 to $300.00 plus cost.

According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of investigation, Steve Adams JR, had been arrested for DUI on October 3rd 1972, April 16th 1978, December 25th 1979, and September 22nd 1981. These 4 prior arrests occurred in Oklahoma City, Hobart, Cordell, and Duncan, Oklahoma.

What is rather obvious is that a persistent offender can never obtain a drivers license but can be arrested four times for DRIVING while under the influence of alcohol. The fifth time he Killed Gary and Wayne Pruden. What is also rather obvious is that a member of our society can drift from city to city, live in motel rooms, drink and drive without a license.

The Charge
Prosecuting Attorney Gary Lentz filed two counts of Vehicular Manslaughter against Adams. Ray Gordon served as a public defender. Judge Yocom, of McDonald Co, Heard the case on April 6th 1983.
Public defender Gordon requested that two separate trials be conducted " on the grounds that the facts and circumstances of the death of the victims was so gruesome as to overwhelm the Jurors and inflame their passion if both counts are tried in the same case"
Apparently, the quest is not for the truth the whole truth, and nothing but the TRUTH" but what tactic can be used to get the client acquitted. Obviously, the facts and circumstances of the deaths of the Victims are so gruesome as to overwhelm the jurors and inflame their passion if both counts are tried in the same case.

Apparently, the quest is not for "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the TRUTH" but what tactic can be used to get the client acquitted. Obviously, the facts and the circumstances of the deaths of the victims are so gruesome as to overwhelm the jurors and inflame their passion, and isn’t it about time the jurors be told the "gruesome" facts concerning the case? Why shouldn't the Jury be allowed to feel the emotional impact of the consequences of such reckless, willful and wanton behavior as drunk driving?

The sentence
The defendant received a sentence of 5 years for both deaths and he was allowed credit for time served in McDonald Co jail. The 5 year/5 year sentence could have resulted in a 10 year sentence if served consecutively, but they were to be served concurrently.

When a criminal receives a 5 year sentence it does not mean that he will actually serve the 5 years. Adams committed this crime on October 30th 1983, His trial was set for April 6th 1983, on July 23rd 1986, Mr. Mike Murphy, Assistant superintendent of the department of corrections, informed Jasper Co MAD that Steve Adams # 047693 had been paroled about six months prior.

In this case the drunk driver with four prior DUI arrests served approximately three years of what could have been a 10 year sentence for killing two brothers. Someday facts like these will "Inflame the Passion" of society and perhaps once again Justice will be for all the people.

In 1986 the MissouriState legislature passed a bill which reveals the current attitude of legislators toward serving a prison sentence. An AP news article describes the bill::

" Under the measure, before a person who has committed a serious felony could be eligible for release, they would have to survive a certain percentage of there sentence if they previously had been convicted of one or more felonies.
Prior offenders convicted of one felony would have to serve 40% of their prison term: those convicted of two felonies committed at different times would serve 60% of their terms: and those who had committed three felonies would serve 80% of there term."

The Pruden's house on Elm street in Newtonia is quiet--probably too quiet. There are no noisy Pruden Grandchildren there is no sound of Grandpa or Grandma--none of this because a drunk crashed into the lives of Gary and Wayne.

Sometimes the Pruden's may wonder " WHY?" but the peace and serenity that pervades their bungalow assures you that they have found an answer, and they are confident that something better is yet to happen.

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